Planting Patrick

Planting Patrick

A couple of months ago, I ordered two Tess of the D’Urbervilles bare root rosebushes from White Flower Farm. They kindly sent me a note that they couldn’t guarantee them as my zone is too cold, but between global warming, and planting them on the south side of my house, in the tropical perennial bed, well, I think they’ll be fine. They look lovely in the photos, bushy dark-pink roses which should bloom continually and will make a nice contrast to the ancient and wonderful white rugosa roses that were here when I moved in. I’ve also planted a couple of Persian Yellow roses in that bed — they’re a hardy northern rose that blooms early, and only once, but with cascades of clear yellow flowers. There was an enormous bank of Persian Yellow’s alongside my oddball rental apartment in Salt Lake City, and I’m deeply fond of them.

I planted my two new bare-root roses yesterday in the side garden, and I fertilized each one with about a cup and a half of Patrick’s ashes. It was a completely unsentimental experience — the guys had just shown up to take down the chain link fence in front of my house — they’re putting up a picket fence later this week. So there I was, digging holes, filling them with water, wandering out there with the satisfyingly basic cloth bag in which what’s left of my beloved Patrick remains, and my ordinary one-cup measure from the kitchen. Mostly I was just hoping the fence guys wouldn’t ask what was up, since I thought it might really freak them out. I scooped about a cup and a half of Patrick’s slightly scary ashes into each hole (those chunky bits were, after all, his bones which is a little intimate, even for me), and then set the bare-root roses in, and tamped the dirt back in around them.

I’ve been mulling over for months what I should do with Patrick’s ashes, and somehow, the idea of using him as bone meal to fertilize two lovely rosebushes that will grow in that bed beside which that nice man, Mike Fitzpatrick, the assistant coroner for Park County, told me that day in September that Patrick had been in an accident and that he was dead, well, it seems fitting somehow. I’ll never forget standing there with the late-summer cosmos and asters waving in the continuous Livingston breeze as that kind man brought me that terrible news. So now Patrick’s there, in my flower garden, where he can fertilize something beautiful, and keep me company.

Well, part of him’s there anyhow. I haven’t decided what to do with the rest of him, but the thing I really learned opening that package yesterday was that even though that dust and those chips are what’s left of my brother’s body — it’s just bonemeal. He’s so not there. And he liked my garden — he used to tease me when he’d bring the dogs back from the park in the morning “How’s the farm coming along?” he’d ask. I’d remind him that my garden is the most normal thing I’ve ever done, that I have a hobby, like a ordinary person. I think the rest of Patrick’s ashes will probably wind up in the garden as well. I’ve got two other climbing roses I bought last week that need to go in someplace. And the vestigal Catholic in me likes the idea of planting him with the tomatoes — likes the idea that come August when the tomatoes get ripe, some part of Patrick, some molecules that were Patrick will all become part of us, out there in my lovely garden, eating gorgeous tomatoes. I like the idea in general, that Patrick has somehow returned to the cycle of things, that he’s out there loose in the universe, and not frozen underground in some horrible box, preserved with chemicals. He’s a rosebush. He’s a tomato. He’s still out there, somewhere.

3 thoughts on “Planting Patrick

  1. Your post made me tear up, but in a good way, as now I will think of you and Patrick when planting my garden each year.

  2. I think what you’ve done is wonderful. I like the idea of your brother’s ashes and bones transmuted into something lovely and growing, back into the cycle of life.

    I had a daughter who dies when she was one month old. Now grass grows from a spot where her ashes were buried in front of a stone church faraway in North Carolina. But I don’t think of her as there. She’s in my heart. And somewhere in the air, hovering in the invisble space between heartbeats.

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